Startup summer: eLab nurtures student businesses
As a small crowd gathered to celebrate the official opening of the Keller Center’s eLab on June 13, the young entrepreneurs participating in the new program busily worked away in newly renovated space in the engineering school’s von Neumann wing.
Sanjeev Kulkarni, the Keller Center’s director, noted the student’s diligence during his brief comments celebrating the opening. No matter how much support the university provides, he said, it will be their efforts that determine the program’s success or failure.
“This is really all about the teams, about the students themselves,” said Kulkarni, who is a professor of electrical engineering.
The Keller Center was founded in 2005 with a mission to educate students as leaders in a technology-driven society. As the center’s latest venture, eLab is designed to foster entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for students and recent graduates to transform their ideas over the course of a summer into operating businesses. Besides providing office space, the eLab offers participants a chance to learn from mentors in the business world and hosts seminars about startups and business development. The teams, which were selected through competitive applications, also receive a stipend and legal and accounting support. The teams are scheduled to present their work to audiences of investors and entrepreneurs on August 15.
Support for the program is provided by the University and by Peter Kellner ’91.
At the opening ceremony, Kulkarni said the eLab’s goal is not just to foster startups at Princeton but to create an environment in which new business would grow across the area.
“We are really creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem here,” said Kulkarni. He said the Princeton area with its proximity to world class researchers, business experts and capital is ideal for fostering new ventures. And he said the University can play a key role by engaging students, faculty and alumni in advancing those ideas.
“Twenty years from now, I want this area to be Silicon Valley east,” he said.
The participating teams in this year’s eLab include:
Dewey: A project to create a library for the Internet where users can easily find, share and discover content worth reading.
DUMA: A job alert service that relies on social networks to connect job seekers and employers in the developing world. DUMA’s software automatically connects the most qualified potential workers with open jobs, and a rating system serves as a quality control. Alerts are sent out through text messages on mobile phones.
GZpoints: An online platform that offers students discounts to local and national businesses based on attendance, grades and community service. By providing the connection, GZpoints aims to foster a culture of academic excellence.
WANTWARRIOR: An engine that users can instruct to persistently search for used goods on the Internet and provide alerts as new buying options become available. The company will also offer a method for non-profits to use the system to benefit charitable organizations.